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Full text of "Chicago poems"

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CHICAGO POEMS 




By 
CARL SANDBURG 




NEW YORK 

HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY 
1916 



COPYRIGHT, 1916 

BY 

HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY 

Published April, 19x6 

PS 



LIBRARY 

723323 

UNIVERS'JYOFJORONTO 



THE QUINN A BOOEN CO. PRESS 
BAMWAV, H. J. 



(Ed 

MY WIFE AND PAL 
LILLIAN STEICHEN SANDBURG 



PREFATORY NOTE 

Some of these writings were first printed in Poetry: 
A Magazine of Verse, Chicago. Permission to reprint 
is by courtesy of that pubHcation. The writer wishes 
to thank Harriet Monroe and Alice Corbin Henderson, 
editors of Poetry, and William Marion Reedy, editor of 
Reedy* s Mirror, St. Louis, whose services have height- 
ened what values of human address herein hold good. 



CONTENTS 

CHICAGO POEMS p^^e 

Chicago . 3 

Sketch 5 

Masses , 6 

Lost 7 

The Harbor 8 

They Will Say 9 

Mill-Doors lo 

Halsted Street Car ii 

Clark Street Bridge .12 

Passers-by 13 

The Walking Man of Rodin 14 

Subway . . , 15 

The Shovel Man i6 

A Teamster's Farewell 17 

Fish Crier 18 

Picnic Boat 19 

Happiness 20 

Muckers 21 

Blacklisted 22 

Graceland 23 

Child of the Romans 24 

The Right to Grief 25 

Mag 27 

Onion Days 28 

Population Drifts 30 

Cripple 31 

A Fence 32 

Anna Imroth 33 

Working Girls 34 

vii 



viii Contents 

Mamie 35 

Personality 36 

Cumulatives 37 

To Certain Journeymen 38 

Chamfort 39 

Limited 40 

The Has-Been 41 

In a Back Alley 42 

A Coin 43 

Dynamiter 44 

Ice Handler 45 

Jack 46 

Fellow Citizens 47 

Nigger 49 

Two Neighbors 50 

Style 51 

To Beachey — 19 12 52 

Under a Hat Rim 53 

In a Breath 54 

Bath 55 

Bronzes 56 

Dunes . 58 

On the Way 59 

Ready to Kill 60 

To a Contemporary Bunkshooter . . . . . .61 

Skyscraper 65 

HANDFULS 

Fog 71 

Pool 72 

Jan Kubelik 73 

Choose 74 

Crimson 75 

Whitelight 76 

Flux 77 

Kin 78 



Contents ix 

White Shoulders 79 

Losses 80 

Troths 81 

WAR POEMS (1914-1915) 

Killers 85 

Among the Red Guns 87 

Iron 88 

Murmurings in a Field Hospital 89 

Statistics 90 

Fight 91 

Buttons 92 

And They Obey 93 

Jaws 94 

Salvage 95 

Wars 96 

THE ROAD AND THE END 

The Road and the End 99 

Choices 100 

Graves loi 

Aztec Mask 102 

Momus 103 

The Answer 105 

To a Dead Man 107 

Under 108 

A Sphinx 109 

Who Am I? no 

Our Prayer of Thanks iii 

FOGS AND FIRES 

At a Window 115 

Under the Harvest Moon 116 

The Great Hunt 117 

Monotone 118 

Joy 119 



X Contents 

Shirt 120 

Aztec 121 

Two 122 

Back Yard 123 

On the Breakwater 124 

Mask 125 

Pearl Fog 126 

I Sang 127 

Follies 128 

June 129 

Nocturne in a Deserted Brickyard 130 

Hydrangeas 131 

Theme in Yellow 132 

Between Two Hills i33 

Last Answers i34 

Window 135 

Young Sea 136 

Bones 138 

Pals 139 

Child 140 

Poppies 141 

Child Moon 142 

Margaret I43 

SHADOWS 

Poems Done on a Late Night Car 147 

It Is Much 150 

Trafficker 151 

Harrison Street Court 152 

Soiled Dove I53 

Jungheimer's 154 

Gone 155 

OTHER DAYS (1900-1910) 

Dreams in the Dusk 159 

Docks 160 



Contents xi 

All Day Long i6i 

Waiting 162 

From the Shore 163 

Uplands in May 164 

A Dream Girl 165 

The Plowboy 166 

Broadway 167 

Old Woman 168 

The Noon Hour . 169 

'Boes 170 

Under a Telephone Pole 171 

I Am the People, the Mob 172 

Government 173 

Languages 175 

Letters to Dead Imagists 176 

Sheep 177 

The Red Son 178 

The Mist 180 

The Junk Man i8i 

Silver Nails 182 

Gypsy 183 



CHICAGO POEMS 



CHICAGO 

Hog Butcher for the World, 

Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, 

Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight 

Handler; 
Stormy, husky, brawling. 
City of the Big Shoulders : 

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I 

have seen your painted women under the gas lamps 

luring the farm boys. 
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer : Yes, it 

is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to 

kill again. 
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is : On the 

faces of women and children I have seen the marks 

of wanton hunger. 
And having answered so I turn once more to those who 

sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer 

and say to them : 
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing 

so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cun- 
ning. 
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on 

job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the 

little soft cities; 

3 



4 Chicago Poems 

Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning 
as a savage pitted against the wilderness, ^ 

Bareheaded, 
Shoveling, 
Wrecking, 
Planning, 

Building, breaking, rebuilding, 
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with 

white teeth, 
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young 

man laughs. 
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has 

never lost a battle. 
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse, 
and under his ribs the heart of the people. 
Laughing ! 
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of 
Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog 
Butcher, Tool Maker,' Stacker of Wheat, Player with 
Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation. 



SKETCH 

The shadows of the ships 

Rock on the crest 

In the low blue lustre 

Of the tardy and the soft inrolling tide. 

A long brown bar at the dip of the sky 
Puts an arm of sand in the span of salt. 

The lucid and endless wrinkles 

Draw in, lapse and withdraw. 

Wavelets crumble and white spent bubbles 

Wash on the floor of the beach. 

Rocking on the crest 

In the low blue lustre 

Are the shadows of the ships. 



MASSES 

Among the mountains I wandered and saw blue haze and 
red crag and was amazed; 

On the beach where the long push under the endless tide 
maneuvers, I stood silent; 

Under the stars on the prairie watching the Dipper slant 
over the horizon's grass, I was full of thoughts. 

Great men, pageants of war and labor, soldiers and work- 
ers, mothers lifting their children — these all I 
touched, and felt the solemn thrill of them. 

And then one day I got a true look at the Poor, millions 
of the Poor, patient and toiling; more patient than 
crags, tides, and stars; innumerable, patient as the 
darkness of night — and all broken, humble ruins of 
nations. 



LOST 

Desolate and lone 

All night long on the lake 

Where fog trails and mist creeps. 

The whistle of a boat 

Calls and cries unendingly, 

Like some lost child 

In tears and trouble 

Hunting the harbor's breast 

And the harbor's eyes. 



THE HARBOR 

Passing through huddled and ugly walls 

By doorways where women 

Looked from their hunger-deep eyes, 

Haunted with shadows of hunger-hands, 

Out from the huddled and ugly walls, 

I came sudden, at the city's edge, 

On a blue burst of lake, 

Long lake waves breaking under the sun 

On a spray-flung curve of shore ; 

And a fluttering storm of gulls, 

Masses of great gray wings 

And flying white bellies 

Veering and wheeling free in the open. 



THEY WILL SAY 

Of my city the worst that men will ever say is this : 
You took little children away from the sun and the dew, 
And the glimmers that played in the grass under the 

great sky, 
And the reckless rain ; you put them between walls 
To work, broken and smothered, for bread and wages, 
To eat dust in their throats and die empty-hearted 
For a little handful of pay on a few Saturday nights. 



k 



MILL-DOORS 

You never come back. 
I say good-by when I see you going in the doors, 
The hopeless open doors that call and wait 
And take you then for — ^how many cents a day? 
How many cents for the sleepy eyes and fingers? 

I say good-by because I know they tap your wrists, 
In the dark, in the silence, day by day. 
And all the blood of you drop by drop. 
And you are old before you are young. 
You never come back. 



lO 



HALSTED STREET CAR 

Come you, cartoonists. 
Hang on a strap with me here 
At seven o'clock in the morning 
On a Halsted street car. 

Take your pencils 
And draw these faces. 

Try with your pencils for these crooked faces, 
That pig-sticker in one corner — his mouth — 
That overall factory girl — ^her loose cheeks. 

Find for your pencils 

A way to mark your memory 

Of tired empty faces. 

After their nighfs sleep. 
In the moist dawn 
And cool daybreak, 

Faces 
Tiled of wishes. 
Empty of dreams. 



II 



CLARK STREET BRIDGE 

Dust of the feet 
And dust of the wheels, 
Wagons and people going, 
All day feet and wheels. 

Now. . . 

. . Only stars and mist 
A lonely policeman. 
Two cabaret dancers. 
Stars and mist again. 
No more feet or wheels. 
No more dust and wagons. 

Voices of dollars 
And drops of blood 



Voices of broken hearts, 
. . Voices singing, singing, 
. . Silver voices, singing, 
Softer than the stars. 
Softer than the mist. 



18 



PASSERS-BY 

Passers-by, 

Out of your many faces 
Flash memories to me 
Now at the day end 
Away from the sidewalks 
Where your shoe soles traveled 
And your voices rose and blent 
To form the city's afternoon roar 
Hindering an old silence. 

Passers-by, 

I remember lean ones among you, 
Throats in the clutch of a hope, 
Lips written over with strivings, 
Mouths that kiss only for love, 
Records of great wishes slept with, 

Held long 
And prayed and toiled for : 

Yes, 
Written on 
Your mouths 
And your throats 
I read them 
When you passed by. 
13 



THE WALKING MAN OF RODIN 

Legs hold a torso away from the earth. 

And a regular high poem of legs is here. 

Powers of bone and cord raise a belly and lungs 

Out of ooze and over the loam where eyes look and ears 

hear 
And arms have a chance to hammer and shoot and run 
motors. 

You make us 

Proud of our legs, old man. 

And you left off the head here, 

The skull found always crumbling neighbor of the 
ankles. 



SUBWAY 

Down between the walls of shadow 
Where the iron laws insist, 
The hunger voices mock. 

The worn wayfaring men 
With the hunched and humble shoulders, 
Throw their laughter into toil. 



THE SHOVEL MAN 

On the street 
Slung on his shoulder is a handle half way across, 
Tied in a big knot on the scoop of cast iron 
Are the overalls faded from sun and rain in the ditches; 
Spatter of dry clay sticking yellow on his left sleeve 
And a flimsy shirt open at the throat, 
I know him for a shovel man, 
A dago working for a dollar six bits a day 
And a dark-eyed woman in the old country dreams of 
him for one of the world's ready men with a pair 
of fresh lips and a kiss better than all the wild 
grapes that ever grew in Tuscany. 



I6 



A TEAMSTER'S FAREWELL 
Sobs En Route to a Penitentiary 

GooD-BY now to the streets and the clash of wheels and 

locking hubs, 
The sun coming on the brass buckles and harness knobs, 
The muscles of the horses sliding under their heavy 

haunches, 
Good-by now to the traffic policeman and his whistle, 
The smash of the iron hoof on the stones. 
All the crazy wonderful slamming roar of the street — 
0« God, there's noises I'm going to be hungry for. 



17 



FISH CRIER 

I KNOW a Jew fish crier down on Maxwell Street with a 
voice like a north wind blowing over corn stubble 
in January. 

He dangles herring before prospective customers evinc- 
ing a joy identical with that of Pavlowa dancing. 

His face is that of a man terribly glad to be selling fish, 
terribly glad that God made fish, and customers to 
whom he may call his wares from a pushcart. 



i8 



PICNIC BOAT 

Sunday night and the park policemen tell each other it 
is dark as a stack of black cats on Lake Michigan. 

A big picnic boat comes home to Chicago from the peach 
farms of Saugatuck. 

Hundreds of electric bulbs break the night's darkness, a 
flock of red and yellow birds with wings at a stand- 
still. 

Running along the deck railings are festoons and leap- 
ing in curves are loops of light from prow and stern 
to the tall smokestacks. 

Over the hoarse crunch of waves at my pier comes a 
hoarse answer in the rhythmic oompa of the brasses 
playing a Polish folk-song for the home-comers. 



19 



HAPPINESS 

I ASKED professors who teach the meaning of life to tell 

me what is happiness. 
And I went to famous executives who boss the work of 

thousands of men. 
They all shook their heads and gave me a smile as though 

I was trying to fool with them. 
And then one Sunday afternoon I wandered out along 

the Desplaines river 
And I saw a crowd of Hungarians under the trees with 

their women and children and a keg of beer and an 

accordion. 



MUCKERS 

Twenty men stand watching the muckers. 
Stabbing the sides of the ditch 
Where clay gleams yellow, 
Driving the blades of their shovels 
Deeper and deeper for the new gas mains, 
Wiping sweat off their faces 
With red bandanas. 
The muckers work on . . pausing . . to pull 
Their boots out of suckholes where they slosh. 

Of the twenty looking on 
Ten murmur, "O, it's a hell of a job," 
Ten others, "Jesus, I wish I had the job." 



31 



BLACKLISTED 

Why shall I keep the old name? 

What is a name anywhere anyway? 

A name is a cheap thing all fathers and mothers leave 

each child: 
A job is a job and I want to live, so 
Why does God Almighty or anybody else care whether 

I take a new name to go by ? 



82 



GRACELAND 

Tomb of a millionaire, 
A multi-millionaire, ladies and gentlemen, 
Place of the dead where they spend every year 
The usury of twenty-five thousand dollars 

For upkeep and flowers 
To keep fresh the memory of the dead. 
The merchant prince gone to dust 
Commanded in his written will 
Over the signed name of his last testament 
Twenty-five thousand dollars be set aside 
For roses, lilacs, hydrangeas, tulips. 
For perfume and color, sweetness of remembrance 
Around his last long home. 

(A hundred cash girls want nickels to go to the movies 

to-night. 
In the back stalls of a hundred saloons, women are at 

tables 
Drinking with men or waiting for men jingling loose 

silver dollars in their pockets. 
In a hundred furnished rooms is a girl who sells silk or 

dress goods or leather stuff for six dollars a week 

wages 
And when she pulls on her stockings in the morning she 

is reckless about God and the newspapers and the 

police, the talk of her home town or the name 

people call her.) 

23 



CHILD OF THE ROMANS 

The dago shovelman sits by the railroad track 
Eating a noon meal of bread and bologna. 

A train whirls by, and men and women at tables 
Alive with red roses and yellow jonquils, 
Eat steaks running with brown gravy, 
Strawberries and cream, eclaires and coffee. 
The dago shovelman finishes the dry bread and bologna, 
Washes it down with a dipper from the water-boy, 
And goes back to the second half of a ten-hour day's 

work 
Keeping the road-bed so the roses and jonquils 
Shake hardly at all in the cut glass vases 
Standing slender on the tables in the dining cars. 



24 



THE RIGHT TO GRIEF 

To Certain Poets About to Die 

Take your fill of intimate remorse, perfumed sorrow, 
Over the dead child of a millionaire, 
And the pity of Death refusing any check on the bank 
Which the millionaire might order his secretary to 

scratch off 
And get cashed. 

Very well. 
You for your grief and I for mine. 
Let me have a sorrow my own if I want to. 

I shall cry over the dead child of a stockyards hunky. 
His job is sweeping blood off the floor. 
He gets a dollar seventy cents a day when he works 
And it's many tubs of blood he shoves out with a broom 
day by day. 

Now his three year old daughter 
Is in a white coffin that cost him a week's wages. 
Every Saturday night he will pay the undertaker fifty 
cents till the debt is wiped out. 

The hunky and his wife and the kids 
Cry over the pinched face almost at peace in the white 
box. 

as 



26 Chicago Poems 

They remember it was scrawny and ran up high doctor 

bills. 
They are glad it is gone for the rest of the family now 

will have more to eat and wear. 

Yet before the majesty of Death they cry around the 

coffin 
And wipe their eyes with red bandanas and sob when 

the priest says, " God have mercy on us all." 

I have a right to feel my throat choke about this. 

You take your grief and I mine — see ? 

To-morrow there is no funeral and the hunky goes back 

to his job sweeping blood off the floor at a dollar 

seventy cents a day. 
All he does all day long is keep on shoving hog blood 

ahead of him with a broom. 



MAG 

I WISH to God I never saw you, Mag. 
I wish you never quit your job and came along with me. 
I wish we never bought a license and a white dress 
For you to get married in the day we ran off to a min- 
ister 
And told him we would love each other and take care of 

each other 
Always and always long as the sun and the rain lasts anyr 

where. 
Yes, I'm wishing now you lived somewhere away from 

here 
And I was a bum on the bumpers a thousand miles away 
dead broke. 

I wish the kids had never come 
And rent and coal and clothes to pay for 
And a grocery man calling for cash, 
Every day cash for beans and prunes. 
I wish to God I never saw you, Mag. 
I wish to God the kids had never come. 



«7 



ONION DAYS 

Mrs. Gabrielle Giovannitti comes along Peoria Street 
every morning at nine o'clock 

With kindling wood piled on top of her head, her eyes 
looking straight ahead to find the way for her old 
feet. 

Her daughter-in-law, Mrs. Pietro Giovannitti, whose 
husband was killed in a tunnel explosion through 
the negligence of a fellow-servant, 

Works ten hours a day, sometimes twelve, picking onions 
for Jasper on the Bowmanville road. 

She takes a street car at half-past five in the morning, 
Mrs. Pietro Giovannitti does. 

And gets back from Jasper's with cash for her day's 
work, between nine and ten o'clock at night. 

Last week she got eight cents a box, Mrs. Pietro Gio- 
vannitti, picking onions for Jasper, 

But this week Jasper dropped the pay to six cents a 
box because so many women and girls were answer- 
ing the ads in the Daily News. 

Jasper belongs to an Episcopal church in Ravenswood 
and on certain Sundays 

He enjoys chanting the Nicene creed with his daughters 
on each side of him joining their voices with his. 

If the preacher repeats old sermons of a Sunday, Jas- 
per's mind wanders to his 700-acre farm and how he 
can make it produce more efficiently 
28 



Onion Days 29 

And sometimes he speculates on whether he could word 
an ad in the Daily News so it would bring more 
women and girls out to his farm and reduce operat- 
ing costs. 

Mrs. Pietro Giovannitti is far from desperate about life ; 
her joy is in a child she knows will arrive to her in 
three months. 

And now while these are the pictures for today there are 
other pictures of the Giovannitti people I could give 
you for to-morrow, 

And how some of them go to the county agent on win- 
ter mornings with their baskets for beans and corn- 
meal and molasses. 

I listen to fellows saying here's good stuff for a novel or 
it might be worked up into a good play. 

I say there's no dramatist living can put old Mrs. 
Gabrielle Giovannitti into a play with that kindling 
wood piled on top of her head coming along Peoria 
Street nine o'clock in the morning. 



POPULATION DRIFTS 

New-mown hay smell and wind of the plain made her 
a woman whose ribs had the power of the hills in 
them and her hands were tough for work and there 
was passion for life in her womb. 

She and her man crossed the ocean and the years that 
marked their faces saw them haggling with landlords 
and grocers while six children played on the stones 
and prowled in the garbage cans. 

One child coughed its lungs away, two more have ade- 
noids and can neither talk nor run like their mother, 
one is in jail, two have jobs in a box factory 

And as they fold the pasteboard, they wonder what the 
wishing is and the wistful glory in them that flut- 
ters faintly when the glimmer of spring comes on 
the air or the green of summer turns brown : 

They do not know it is the new-mown hay smell calling 
and the wind of the plain praying for them to come 
back and take hold of life again with tough hands 
and with passion. 



30 



CRIPPLE 

Once when I saw a cripple 

Gasping slowly his last days with the white plagUv 

Looking from hollow eyes, calling for air, 

Desperately gesturing with wasted hands 

In the dark and dust of a house down in a slum, 

I said to myself 

I would rather have been a tall sunflower 

Living in a country garden 

Lifting a golden-brown face to the summer, 

Rain-washed and dew-misted, 

Mixed with the poppies and ranking hollyhocks, 

And wonderingly watching night after night 

The clear silent processionals of stars. 



A FENCE 

Now the stone house on the lake front is finished and the 
workmen are beginning the fence. 

The palings are made of iron bars with steel points that 
can stab the life out of any man who falls on them. 

As a fence, it is a masterpiece, and will shut off the rab- 
ble and all vagabonds and hungry men and all wan- 
dering children looking for a place to play. 

Passing through the bars and over the steel points will go 
nothing except Death and the Rain and To-morrow. 



32 



ANNA IMROTH 

Cross the hands over the breast here — so. 
Straighten the legs a little more — so. 
And call for the wagon to come and take her home. 
Her mother will cry some and so will her sisters and 

brothers. 
But all of the others got down and they are safe and 

this is the only one of the factory girls who 

wasn't lucky in making the jump when the fire 

broke. 
It is the hand of God and the lack of fire escapes. 



WORKING GIRLS 

The working girls in the morning are going to work — 
long lines of them afoot amid the downtown stores 
and factories, thousands with little brick-shaped 
lunches wrapped in newspapers under their arms. 

Each morning as I move through this river of young- 
woman life I feel a wonder about where it is all 
going, so many with a peach bloom of young years 
on them and laughter of red lips and memories in 
their eyes of dances the night before and plays and 
walks. 

Green and gray streams run side by side in a river and 
so here are always the others, those who have been 
over the way, the women who know each one the 
end of life's gamble for her, the meaning and the 
clew, the how and the why of the dances and the 
arms that passed around their waists and the fingers 
that played in their hair. 

Faces go by written over : " I know it all, I know where 
the bloom and the laughter go and I have memo- 
ries," and the feet of these move slower and they 
have wisdom where the others have beauty. 

So the green and the gray move in the early morning 
on the downtown streets. 



MAMIE 

Mamie beat her head against the bars of a little Indiana 
town and dreamed of romance and big things off 
somewhere the way the railroad trains all ran. 

She could see the smoke of the engines get lost down 
where the streaks of steel flashed in the sun and 
when the newspapers came in on the morning mail 
she knew there was a big Chicago far off, where all 
the trains ran. 

She got tired of the barber shop boys and the post office 
chatter and the church gossip and the old pieces the 
band played on the Fourth of July and Decoration 
Day 

And sobbed at her fate and beat her head against the 
bars and was going to kill herself 

When the thought came to her that if she was going to 
die she might as well die struggling for a clutch of 
romance among the streets of Chicago. 

She has a job now at six dollars a week in the basement 
of the Boston Store 

And even now she beats her head against the bars in the 
same old way and wonders if there is a bigger place 
the railroads run to from Chicago where maybe 
there is 

romance 
and big things 
and real dreams 
that never go smash. 
35 



PERSONALITY 

Musings of a Police Reporter in the Identification 

Bureau 

You have loved forty women, but you have only one 
thumb. 

You have led a hundred secret lives, but you mark only 
one thumb. 

You go round the world and fight in a thousand wars and 
win all the world's honors, but when you come back 
home the print of the one thumb your mother gave 
you is the same print of thumb you had in the old 
home when your mother kissed you and said 
good-by. 

Out of the whirling womb of time come millions of men 
and their feet crowd the earth and they cut one an- 
others' throats for room to stand and among them all 
are not two thumbs alike. 

Somewhere is a Great God of Thumbs who can tell the 
inside story of this. 



CUMULATIVES 

Storms have beaten on this point of land 
And ships gone to wreck here 

and the passers-by remember it 

with talk on the deck at night 

as they near it. 

Fists have beaten on the face of this old prize-fighter 
And his battles have held the sporting pages 

and on the street they indicate him with their 
right fore-finger as one who once wore 
a championship belt. 

A hundred stories have been published and a thousand 

rumored 
About why this tall dark man has divorced two beau- 
tiful young women 
And married a third who resembles the first two 

and they shake their heads and say, " There he 

goes," 
when he passes by in sunny weather or in rain 
along the city streets. 



37 



TO CERTAIN JOURNEYMEN 

Undertakers, hearse drivers, grave diggers, 

I speak to you as one not afraid of your business. 

You handle dust going to a long country, 

You know the secret behind your job is the same whether 
you lower the coffin with modern, automatic ma- 
chinery, well-oiled and noiseless, or whether the 
body is laid in by naked hands and then covered 
by the shovels. 

Your day's work is done with laughter many days of the 

year, 
And you earn a living by those who say good-by today 

in thin whispers. 



38 



CHAMFORT 

There's Chamfort. He's a sample. 

Locked himself in his library with a gun. 

Shot off his nose and shot out his right eye. 

And this Chamfort knew how to write 

And thousands read his books on how to live, 

But he himself didn't know 

How to die by force of his own hand — see ? 

They found him a red pool on the carpet 

Cool as an April forenoon, 

Talking and talking gay maxims and grim epi- 
grams. 

Well, he wore bandages over his nose and right 
eye, 

Drank coffee and chatted many years 

With men and women who loved him 

Because he laughed and daily dared Death : 

" Come and take me." 



LIMITED 

I AM riding on a limited express, one of the crack trains 
of the nation. 

Hurtling across the prairie into blue haze and dark air 
go fifteen all-steel coaches holding a thousand peo- 
ple. 

(All the coaches shall be scrap and rust and all the men 
and women laughing in the diners and sleepers shall 
pass to ashes.) 

I ask a man in the smoker where he is going and he 
answers : " Omaha." 



40 



THE HAS-BEEN 

A STONE face higher than six horses stood five thousand 
years gazing at the world seeming to clutch a secret. 

A boy passes and throws a niggerhead that chips off the 
end of the nose from the stone face; he lets fly a 
mud ball that spatters the right eye and cheek of the 
old looker-on. 

The boy laughs and goes whistling "ee-ee-ee ee-ee-ee." 
The stone face stands silent, seeming to clutch a 
secret. 



IN A BACK ALLEY 

Remembrance for a great man is this. 
The newsies are pitching pennies. 
And on the copper disk is the man's face. 
Dead lover of boys, what do you ask for now ? 



43 



A COIN 

Your western heads here cast on money, 
You are the two that fade away together, 
Partners in the mist. 

Lunging buffalo shoulder. 

Lean Indian face, 
We who come after where you are gone 
Salute your forms on the new nickel. 

You are 
To us: 
The past. 

Runners 

On the prairie: 

Good-by. 



43 



DYNAMITER 

I SAT with a dynamiter at supper in a German saloon 

eating steak and onions. 
And he laughed and told stories of his wife and children 

and the cause of labor and the working class. 
It was laughter of an unshakable man knowing life to be 

a rich and red-blooded thing. 
Yes, his laugh rang like the call of gray birds filled with 

a glory of joy ramming their winged flight through 

a rain storm. 
His name was in many newspapers as an enemy of the 

nation and few keepers of churches or schools would 

open their doors to him. 
Over the steak and onions not a word was said of his 

deep days and nights as a dynamiter. 
Only I always remember him as a lover of life, a lover 

of children, a lover of all free, reckless laughter 

everywhere — lover of red hearts and red blood the 

world over. 



ICE HANDLER 

I KNOW an ice handler who wears a flannel shirt with 
pearl buttons the size of a dollar, 

And he lugs a hundred-pound hunk into a saloon ice- 
box, helps himself to cold ham and rye bread, 

Tells the bartender it's hotter than yesterday and will be 
hotter yet to-morrow, by Jesus, 

And is on his way with his head in the air and a hard 
pair of fists. 

He spends a dollar or so every Saturday night on a two 
hundred pound woman who washes dishes in the 
Hotel Morrison. 

He remembers when the union was organized he broke 
the noses of two scabs and loosened the nuts so the 
wheels came off six different wagons one morning, 
and he came around and watched the ice melt in the 
street. 

All he was sorry for was one of the scabs bit him on the 
knuckles of the right hand so they bled when he 
came around to the saloon to tell the boys about it. 



i 



45 



JACK 

Jack was a swarthy, swaggering son-of-a-gun. 

He worked thirty years on the railroad, ten hours a day, 
and his hands were tougher than sole leather. 

He married a tough woman and they had eight children 
and the woman died and the children grew up and 
went away and wrote the old man every two years. 

He died in the poorhouse sitting on a bench in the sun 
telling reminiscences to other old men whose women 
were dead and children scattered. 

There was joy on his face when he died as there was joy 
on his face when he lived — he was a swarthy, swag- 
gering son-of-a-gun. 



FELLOW CITIZENS 

I DRANK musty ale at the Illinois Athletic Club with 
the millionaire manufacturer of Green River butter 
one night 

And his face had the shining light of an old-time Quaker, 
he spoke of a beautiful daughter, and I knew he had 
a peace and a happiness up his sleeve somewhere. 

Then I heard Jim Kirch make a speech to the Advertis- 
ing Association on the trade resources of South 
America. 

And the way he lighted a three-for-a-nickel stogie and 
cocked it at an angle regardless of the manners of 
our best people, 

I knew he had a clutch on a real happiness even though 
some of the reporters on his newspaper say he is 
the living double of Jack London's Sea Wolf. 

In the mayor's office the mayor himself told me he was 
happy though it is a hard job to satisfy all the office- 
seekers and eat all the dinners he is asked to eat. 

Down in Gilpin Place, near Hull House, was a man with 
his jaw wrapped for a bad toothache. 

And he had it all over the butter millionaire, Jim Kirch 
and the mayor when it came to happiness. 

He is a maker of accordions and guitars and not only 
makes them from start to finish, but plays them 
after he makes them. 

47 



48 Chicago Poems 

And he had a guitar of mahogany with a walnut bottom 

he offered for seven dollars and a half if I wanted it, 
And another just like it, only smaller, for six dollars, 

though he never mentioned the price till I asked 

him. 
And he stated the price in a sorry way, as though the 

music and the make of an instrument count for a 

million times more than the price in money. 
I thought he had a real soul and knew a lot about God. 
There was light in his eyes of one who has conquered 

sorrow in so far as sorrow is conquerable or worth 

conquering. 
Anyway he is the only Chicago citizen I was jealous of 

that day. 
He played a dance they play in some parts of Italy 

when the harvest of grapes is over and the wine 

presses are ready for work. 



NIGGER 

I AM the nigger. 

Singer of songs, 

Dancer. . . 

Softer than fluff of cotton. . . 

Harder than dark earth 

Roads beaten in the sun 

By the bare feet of slaves. . . 

Foam of teeth . . . breaking crash of laughter. . . 

Red love of the blood of woman, 

White love of the tumbling pickaninnies. . . 

Lazy love of the banjo thrum. . . 

Sweated and driven for the harvest-wage, 

Loud laugher with hands like hams, 

Fists toughened on the handles, 

Smiling the slumber dreams of old jungles, 

Crazy as the sun and dew and dripping, heaving life 

of the jungle. 
Brooding and muttering with memories of shackles : 

I am the nigger. 

Look at me. 

I am the nigger. 



49 



TWO NEIGHBORS 

Faces of two eternities keep looking at me. 
One is Omar Khayam and the red stuff 

wherein men forget yesterday and to-morrow 
and remember only the voices and songs, 
the stories, newspapers and fights of today. 
One is Louis Cornaro and a slim trick 

of slow, short meals across slow, short years, 
letting Death open the door only in slow, short 
inches. 
I have a neighbor who swears by Omar. 
I have a neighbor who swears by Cornaro. 

Both are happy. 
Faces of two eternities keep looking at me. 

Let them look. 



50 



STYLE 

Style — go ahead talking about style. 

You can tell where a man gets his style just 

as you can tell where Pavlowa got her legs 

or Ty Cobb his batting eye. 

Go on talking. 
Only don't take my style away. 
It's my face. 
Maybe no good 

but anyway, my face. 
I talk with it, I sing with it, I see, taste and feel with it, 
I know why I want to keep it. 

Kill my style 

and you break Pavlowa's legs, 

and you blind Ty Cobb's batting eye. 



TO BEACHEY, 1912 

Riding against the east, 
A veering, steady shadow- 
Purrs the motor-call 
Of the man-bird 
Ready with the death-laughter 
In his throat 
And in his heart always 
The love of the big blue beyond. 

Only a man, 

A far fleck of shadow on the east 

Sitting at ease 

With his hands on a wheel 

And around him the large gray wings. 

Hold him, great soft wings, 

Keep and deal kindly, O wings, 

With the cool, calm shadow at the wheel. 



UNDER A HAT RIM 

While the hum and the hurry 

Of passing footfalls 

Beat in my ear like the restless surf 

Of a wind-blown sea, 

A soul came to me 

Out of the look on a face. 

Eyes like a lake 

Where a storm-wind roams 

Caught me from under 

The rim of a hat. 

I thought of a midsea wreck 
and bruised fingers clinging 
to a broken state-room door. 



S3 



IN A BREATH 

To the Williamson Brothers 

High noon. White sun flashes on the Michigan Avenue 
asphalt. Drum of hoofs and whirr of motors. 
Women trapsing along in flimsy clothes catching 
play of sun-fire to their skin and eyes. 

Inside the playhouse are movies from under the sea. 
From the heat of pavements and the dust of side- 
walks, passers-by go in a breath to be witnesses of 
large cool sponges, large cool fishes, large cool val- 
leys and ridges of coral spread silent in the soak of 
the ocean floor thousands of years. 

A naked swimmer dives. A knife in his right hand 
shoots a streak at the throat of a shark. The tail 
of the shark lashes. One swing would kill the swim- 
mer. . . Soon the knife goes into the soft under- 
neck of the veering fish. . . Its mouthful of teeth, 
each tooth a dagger itself, set row on row, glistens 
when the shuddering, yawning cadaver is hauled up 
by the brothers of the swimmer. 

Outside in the street is the murmur and singing of life 
in the sun — ^horses, motors, women trapsing along 
in flimsy clothes, play of sun-fire in their blood. 
54 



BATH 

A MAN saw the whole world as a grinning skull and 
cross-bones. The rose flesh of life shriveled from all 
faces. Nothing counts. Everything is a fake. Dust to 
dust and ashes to ashes and then an old darkness and a 
useless silence. So he saw it all. Then he went to a 
Mischa Elman concert. Two hours waves of sound beat 
on his eardrums. Music washed something or other in- 
side him. Music broke down and rebuilt something or 
other in his head and heart. He joined in five encores 
for the young Russian Jew with the fiddle. When he 
got outside his heels hit the sidewalk a new way. He 
was the same man in the same world as before. Only 
there was a singing fire and a climb of roses everlast- 
ingly over the world he looked on. 



55 



BRONZES 



The bronze General Grant riding a bronze horse in Lin- 
coln Park 

Shrivels in the sun by day when the motor cars whirr 
by in long processions going somewhere to keep ap- 
pointment for dinner and matinees and buying and 
selling 

Though in the dusk and nightfall when high waves are 
piling 

On the slabs of the promenade along the lake shore near 
by 

I have seen the general dare the combers come closer 

And make to ride his bronze horse out into the hoofs 
and guns of the storm. 



56 



II 

I cross Lincoln Park on a winter night when the snow 
is failing. 

Lincoln in bronze stands among the white lines of snow, 
his bronze forehead meeting soft echoes of the new- 
sies crying forty thousand men are dead along the 
Yser, his bronze ears listening to the mumbled roar 
of the city at his bronze feet. 

A lithe Indian on a bronze pony, Shakespeare seated with 
long legs in bronze, Garibaldi in a bronze cape, they 
hold places in the cold, lonely snow to-night on their 
pedestals and so they will hold them past midnight 
and into the dawn. 



57 



DUNES 

What do we see here in the sand dunes of the white 

moon alone with our thoughts, Bill, 
Alone with our dreams, Bill, soft as the women tying 

scarves around their heads dancing, 
Alone with a picture and a picture coming one after the 

other of all the dead, 
The dead more than all these grains of sand one by one 

piled here in the moon. 
Piled against the sky-line taking shapes like the hand of 

the wind wanted, 
What do we see here, Bill, outside of what the wise men 

beat their heads on, 
Outside of what the poets cry for and the soldiers drive 

on headlong and leave their skulls in the sun for — 

what, Bill? 



ON THE WAY 

Little one, you have been buzzing in the books, 
Flittering in the newspapers and drinking beer with 

lawyers 
And amid the educated men of the clubs you have been 

getting an earful of speech from trained tongues. 
Take an earful from me once, go with me on a hike 
Along sand stretches on the great inland sea here 
And while the eastern breeze blows on us and the rest- 
less surge 
Of the lake waves on the breakwater breaks with an ever 

fresh monotone, 
Let us ask ourselves : What is truth ? what do you or I 

know? 
How much do the wisest of the world's men know about 
where the massed human procession is going? 

You have heard the mob laughed at? 

I ask you : Is not the mob rough as the mountains are 

rough ? 
And all things human rise from the mob and relapse and 

rise again as rain to the sea ? 



59 



READY TO KILL 

Ten minutes now I have been looking at this. 
I have gone by here before and wondered about it. 
This is a bronze memorial of a famous general 
Riding horseback with a flag and a sword and a revolver 

on him. 
I want to smash the whole thing into a pile of junk to be 

hauled away to the scrap yard. 
I put it straight to you, 
After the farmer, the miner, the shop man, the factory 

hand, the fireman and the teamster. 
Have all been remembered with bronze memorials, 
Shaping them on the job of getting all of us 
Something to eat and something to wear, 
When they stack a few silhouettes 
Against the sky 
Here in the park, 
And show the real huskies that are doing the work of 

the world, and feeding people instead of butchering 

them. 
Then maybe I will stand here 
And look easy at this general of the army holding a flag 

in the air, 
And riding like hell on horseback 
Ready to kill anybody that gets in his way, 
Ready to run the red blood and slush the bowels of men 

all over the sweet new grass of the prairie. 
60 



TO A CONTEMPORARY BUNKSHOOTER 

You come along. . . tearing your shirt. . . yelling about 
Jesus. 

Where do you get that stuff ? 
What do you know about Jesus? 

Jesus had a way of talking soft and outside of a few 
bankers and higher-ups among the con men of Jeru- 
salem everybody liked to have this Jesus around be- 
cause he never made any fake passes and everything 
he said went and he helped the sick and gave the 
people hope. 

You come along squirting words at us, shaking your fist 
and calling us all dam fools so fierce the froth slob- 
bers over your lips. . . always blabbing we're all 
going to hell straight off and you know all about it. 

Fve read Jesus' words. I know what he said. You don't 
throw any scare into me. Fve got your number. I* 
know how much you know about Jesus. 

He never came near clean people or dirty people but 
they felt cleaner because he came along. It was your 
crowd of bankers and business men and lawyers 
hired the sluggers and murderers who put Jesus out 
of the running. 

6i 



t 



62 Chicago Poems 

1 say the same bunch backing you nailed the nails into 
the hands of this Jesus of Nazareth. He had lined 
up against him the same crooks and strong-arm men 
now lined up with you paying your way. 

This Jesus was good to look at, smelled good, listened 
good. He threw out something fresh and beautiful 
from the skin of his body and the touch of his hands 
wherever he passed along. 

You slimy bunkshooter, you put a smut on every human 
blossom in reach of your rotten breath belching 
about hell-fire and hiccupping about this Man who 
lived a clean life in Galilee. 

When are you going to quit making the carpenters build 
emergency hospitals for women and girls driven 
crazy with wrecked nerves from your gibberish about 
Jesus — I put it to you again : Where do you get that 
stuff; what do you know about Jesus? 

Go ahead and bust all the chairs you want to. Smash 
a whole wagon load of furniture at every perform- 
ance. Turn sixty somersaults and stand on your 
nutty head. If it wasn't for the way you scare the 
women and kids I'd feel sorry for you and pass the 
hat. 

I like to watch a good four-flusher work, but not when 
he starts people puking and calling for the doctors. 

I like a man that's got nerve and can pull off a great 
original performance, but you — ^you're only a bug- 
house peddler of second-hand gospel — ^you're only 



i 



To a Contemporary Bunkshooter 6^ 

shoving out a phoney imitation of the goods this 
Jesus wanted free as air and sunHght. 

You tell people living in shanties Jesus is going to fix: it 
up all right with them by giving them mansions in 
the skies after they're dead and the worms have 
eaten 'em. 

You tell $6 a week department store girls all they need 
is Jesus ; you take a steel trust wop, dead without 
having lived, gray and shrunken at forty years of 
age, and you tell him to look at Jesus on the cross 
and he'll be all right. 

You tell poor people they don't need any more money 
on pay day and even if it's fierce to be out of a job, 
Jesus'll fix that up all right, all right — all they gotta 
do is take Jesus the way you say. 

I'm telling you Jesus wouldn't stand for the stuff you're 
handing out. Jesus played it different. The bank- 
ers and lawyers of Jerusalem got their sluggers and 
murderers to go after Jesus just because Jesus 
wouldn't play their game. He didn't sit in with 
the big thieves. 

T don't want a lot of gab from a bunkshooter in my re- 
ligion. 

I won't take my religion from any man who never works 
except with his mouth and never cherishes any mem- 
ory except the face of the woman on the American 
silver dollar. 

I ask you to come through and show me where you're 
pouring out the blood of your life. 



64 Chicago Poems 

I've been to this suburb of Jerusalem they call Golgotha, 
where they nailed Him, and I know if the story is 
straight it was real blood ran from His hands and 
the nail-holes, and it was real blood spurted in red 
drops where the spear of the Roman soldier rammed 
in between the ribs of this Jesus of Nazareth. 



SKYSCRAPER 

By day the skyscraper looms in the smoke and sun and 
has a soul. 

Prairie and valley, streets of the city, pour people into 
it and they mingle among its twenty floors and are 
poured out again back to the streets, prairies and 
valleys. 

It is the men and women, boys and girls so poured in and 
out all day that give the building a soul of dreams 
and thoughts and memories. 

(Dumped in the sea or fixed in a desert, who would care 
for the building or speak its name or ask a police- 
man the way to it?) 

Elevators slide on their cables and tubes catch letters and 
parcels and iron pipes carry gas and water in and 
sewage out. 

Wires climb with secrets, carry light and carry words, 
and tell terrors and profits and loves — curses of men 
grappling plans of business and questions of women 
in plots of love. 

Hour by hour the caissons reach down to the rock of the 
earth and hold the building to a turning planet. 

Hour by hour the girders play as ribs and reach out and 
hold together the stone walls and floors. 
65 



66 Chicago Poems 

Hour by hour the hand of the mason and the stuff of the 
mortar cUnch the pieces and parts to the shape an 
architect voted. 

Hour by hour the sun and the rain, the air and the rust, 
and the press of time running into centuries, play 
on the building inside and out and use it. 

Men who sunk the pilings and mixed the mortar are laid 
in graves where the wind whistles a wild song with- 
out words 

And so are men who strung the wires and fixed the pipes 
and tubes and those who saw it rise floor by floor. 

Souls of them all are here, even the hod carrier begging 
at back doors hundreds of miles away and the brick- 
layer who went to state's prison for shooting another 
man while drunk. 

(One man fell from a girder and broke his neck at the 
end of a straight plunge — he is here — his soul has 
gone into the stones of the building.) 

On the office doors from tier to tier — hundreds of names 
and each name standing for a face written across 
with a dead child, a passionate lover, a driving am- 
bition for a million dollar business or a lobster's 
ease of life. 

Behind the signs on the doors they work and the walls 
tell nothing from room to room. 

Ten-dollar-a-week stenographers take letters from cor- 
poration officers, lawyers, efficiency engineers, and 
tons of letters go bundled from the building to all 
ends of the earth. 



Skyscraper 6^ 

Smiles and tears of each office girl go into the soul of 
the building just the same as the master-men who 
rule the building. 

Hands of clocks turn to noon hours and each floor 
empties its men and women who go away and eat 
and come back to work. 

Toward the end of the afternoon all work slackens and 
all jobs go slower as the people feel day closing on 
them. 

One by one the floors are emptied. . . The uniformed 
elevator men are gone. Pails clang. . . Scrubbers 
work, talking in foreign tongues. Broom and water 
and mop clean from the floors human dust and spit, 
and machine grime of the day. 

Spelled in electric fire on the roof are words telling 
miles of houses and people where to buy a thing for 
money. The sign speaks till midnight. 

Darkness on the hallways. Voices echo. Silence 
holds. . . Watchmen walk slow from floor to floor 
and try the doors. Revolvers bulge from their hip 
pockets. . . Steel safes stand in corners. Money 
is stacked in them. 

A young watchman leans at a window and sees the lights 
of barges butting their way across a harbor, nets of 
red and white lanterns in a railroad yard, and a span 
of glooms splashed with lines of white and blurs of 
crosses and clusters over the sleeping city. 

By night the skyscraper looms in the smoke and the stars 
and has a soul. 



HANDFULS 



FOG 

The fog comes 
on little cat feet. 

It sits looking 
over harbor and city 
on silent haunches 
and then moves on. 



71 



POOL 

Out of the fire 

Came a man sunken 

To less than cinders, 

A tea-cup of ashes or so. 

And I, 

The gold in the house, 

Writhed into a stiff pool. 



7« 



JAN KUBELIK 

Your bow swept over a string, and a long low note 

quivered to the air. 
(A mother of Bohemia sobs over a new child perfect 

learning to suck milk.) 

Your bow ran fast over all the. high strings fluttering 
and wild. 

(All the girls in Bohemia are laughing on a Sunday after- 
noon in the hills with their lovers.) 



73 



CHOOSE 

The single clenched fist lifted and ready, 
Or the open asking hand held out and waiting. 

Choose : 
For we meet by one or the other. 



74 



CRIMSON 

Crimson is the slow smolder of the cigar end I hold, 
Gray is the ash that stiffens and covers all silent the fire. 
(A great man I know is dead and while he lies in his 
coffin a gone flame I sit here in cumbering shadows 
and smoke and watch my thoughts come and go.) 



7S 



WHITELIGHT 

Your whitelight flashes the frost to-night 
Moon of the purple and silent west. 
Remember me /one of your lovers of dreams. 



FLUX 

Sand of the sea runs red 

Where the sunset reaches and quivers. 

Sand of the sea runs yellow 

Where the moon slants and wavers. 



77 



KIN 

Brother, I am fire 
Surging under the ocean floor. 
I shall never meet you, brother — 
Not for years, anyhow; 
Maybe thousands of years, brother. 
Then I will warm you, 
Hold you close, wrap you in circles, 
Use you and change you — 
Maybe thousands of years, brother. 



7« 



WHITE SHOULDERS 

lYouR white shoulders 

I remember 
And your shrug of laughter. 

Low laughter 
Shaken slow 
From your white shoulders. 



79 



LOSSES 

I HAVE love 
And a child, 
A banjo 
And shadows. 
(Losses of God, 
All will go 
And one day 
We will hold 
Only the shadows.) 



80 



TROTHS 

Yellow dust on a bumble 

bee's wing, 
Grey lights in a woman's 

asking eyes, 
Red ruins in the changing 

sunset embers : 
I take you and pile high 

the memories. 
Death will break her claws 

on some I keep. 



8i 



WAR POEMS 
(1914-1915) 



KILLERS 

I AM singing to you 
Soft as a man with a dead child speaks; 
Hard as a man in handcuffs, 
Held where he cannot move: 

Under the sun 
Are sixteen million men, 
Chosen for shining teeth, 
Sharp eyes, hard legs. 
And a running of young warm blood in their wrists. 

And a red juice runs on the green grass; 
And a red juice soaks the dark soil. 
And the sixteen million are killing . . . and killing 
and killing. 

I never forget them day or night : 
They beat on my head for memory of them ; 
They pound on my heart and I cry back to them. 
To their homes and women, dreams and games. 

I wake in the night and smell the trenches, 
And hear the low stir of sleepers in lines — 
Sixteen million sleepers and pickets in the dark: 
Some of them long sleepers for always, 
85 



86 War Poems 

Some of them tumbling to sleep to-morrow for al- 
ways, 
Fixed in the drag of the world's heartbreak, 
Eating and drinking, toiling ... on a long job of 
killing. 
Sixteen million men. 



AMONG THE RED GUNS 

After waking at dawn one morning when the wind sang 
low among dry leaves in an elm 

Among the red guns, 
In the hearts of soldiers 
Running free blood 
In the long, long campaign : 
Dreams go on. 

Among the leather saddles, 
In the heads of soldiers 
Heavy in the wracks and kills 
Of all straight fighting: 
Dreams go on. 

Among the hot muzzles, 

In the hands of soldiers 

Brought from flesh-folds of women — 

Soft amid the blood and crying — 

In all your hearts and heads 

Among the guns and saddles and muzzles : 

Dreams, 
Dreams go on, 

Out of the dead on their backs. 
Broken and no use any more : 
Dreams of the way and the end go on. 
87 



IRON 

Guns, 

Long, steel guns. 
Pointed from the war ships 
In the name of the war god. 
Straight, shining, polished guns, 
Clambered over with jackies in white blouses, 
Glory of tan faces, tousled hair, white teeth, 
Laughing lithe jackies in white blouses, 
Sitting on the guns singing war songs, war 
chanties. 

Shovels, 

Broad, iron shovels, 
Scooping out oblong vaults, 
Loosening turf and leveling sod. 

I ask you 

To witness — 

The shovel is brother to the gun. 



MURMURINGS IN A FIELD HOSPITAL 

[They picked him up in the grass where he had lain two 
days in the rain with a piece of shrapnel in his lungs.'\ 

Come to me only with playthings now . . . 

A picture of a singing woman with blue eyes 

Standing at a fence of hollyhocks, poppies and sun- 
flowers . . . 

Or an old man I remember sitting with children telling 
stories 

Of days that never happened anywhere in the 
world . . . 

No more iron cold and real to handle, 

Shaped for a drive straight ahead. 

Bring me only beautiful useless things. 

Only old home things touched at sunset in the 

quiet . . . 
And at the window one day in summer 
Yellow of the new crock of butter 
Stood against the red of new climbing roses . . . 
And the world was all playthings. 



STATISTICS 

Napoleon shifted, 

Restless in the old sarcophagus 

And murmured to a watchguard : 

"Who goes there?" 

" Twenty-one million men. 

Soldiers, armies, guns, 

Twenty-one million 

Afoot, horseback. 

In the air. 

Under the sea." 

And Napoleon turned to his sleep : 

" It is not my world answering ; 

It is some dreamer who knows not 

The world I marched in 

From Calais to Moscow." 

And he slept on 

In the old sarcophagus 

While the aeroplanes 

Droned their motors 

Between Napoleon's mausoleum 

And the cool night stars. 



90 



FIGHT 

Red drips from my chin where I have been eating. 
Not all the blood, nowhere near all, is wiped off my 
mouth. 

Clots of red mess my hair 

And the tiger, the buffalo, know how. 

I was a killer. 

Yes, I am a killer. 

I come from killing. 

I go to more. 
I drive red joy ahead of me from killing. 
Red gluts and red hungers run in the smears and juices 

of my inside bones : 
The child cries for a suck mother and I cry for war. 



BUTTONS 

I HAVE been watching the war map slammed up for 
advertising in front of the newspaper office. 

Buttons — red and yellow buttons — blue and black but- 
tons — ^are shoved back and forth across the map. 

A laughing young man, sunny with freckles, 
Climbs a ladder, yells a joke to somebody in the crowd, 
And then fixes a yellow button one inch west 
And follows the yellow button with a black button one 
inch west. 

(Ten thousand men and boys twist on their bodies in 
a red soak along a river edge, 

Gasping of wounds, calling for water, some rattling 
death in their throats.) 

Who would guess what it cost to move two buttons one 
inch on the war map here in front of the newspaper 
office where the freckle-faced young man is laugh- 
ing to us? 



9« 



AND THEY OBEY 

Smash down the cities. 

Knock the walls to pieces. 

Break the factories and cathedrals, warehouses 

and homes 
Into loose piles of stone and lumber and black 

burnt wood : 

You are the soldiers and we command you. 

Build up the cities. 

Set up the walls again. 

Put together once more the factories and cathe- 
drals, warehouses and homes 

Into buildings for life and labor : 

You are workmen and citizens all: We 
command you. 



93 



JAWS 

Seven nations stood with their hands on the jaws of 

death. 
It was the first week in August, Nineteen Hundred Four- 
teen. 
I was listening, you were listening, the whole world was 

listening, 
And all of us heard a Voice murmuring: 
" I am the way and the light. 
He that believeth on me 
Shall not perish 

But shall have everlasting life." 
Seven nations listening heard the Voice and answered : 

"O Hell!" 
The jaws of death began clicking and they go on click- 
ing: 

"O Hell I" 



94 



SALVAGE 

Guns on the battle lines have pounded now a year be- 
tween Brussels and Paris. 

And, William Morris, when I read your old chapter on 
the great arches and naves and little whimsical cor- 
ners of the Churches of Northern France — Brr-rr! 

I'm glad you're a dead man, William Morris, I'm glad 
you're down in the damp and mouldy, only a memory 
instead of a living man — I'm glad you're gone. 

You never lied to us, William Morris, you loved the 
shape of those stones piled and carved for you to 
dream over and wonder because workmen got joy 
of life into them. 

Workmen in aprons singing while they hammered, and 
praying, and putting their songs and prayers into 
the walls and roofs, the bastions and cornerstones 
and gargoyles — all their children and kisses of 
women and wheat and roses growing. 

I say, William Morris, I'm glad you're gone, I'm glad 
you're a dead man. 

Guns on the battle lines have pounded a year now be- 
tween Brussels and Paris. 



95 



WARS 

In the old wars drum of hoofs and the beat of shod feet. 
In the new wars hum of motors and the tread of rubber 

tires. 
In the wars to come silent wheels and whirr of rods not 

yet dreamed out in the heads of men. 

In the old wars clutches of short swords and jabs into 

faces with spears. 
In the new wars long range guns and smashed walls, guns 

running a spit of metal and men falling in tens and 

twenties. 
In. the wars to come new silent deaths, new silent hurlers 

not yet dreamed out in the heads of men. 

In the old wars kings quarreling and thousands of men 

following. 
In the new wars kings quarreling and millions of men 

following. 
In the wars to come kings kicked under the dust and 

millions of men following great causes not yet 

dreamed out in the heads of men. 



THE ROAD AND THE END 



THE ROAD AND THE END 

I SHALL foot it 

Down the roadway in the dusk, 
Where shapes of hunger wander 
And the fugitives of pain go by. 
I shall foot it 

In the silence of the morning, 
See the night slur into dawn, 
Hear the slow great winds arise 
Where tall trees flank the way 
And shoulder toward the sky. 

The broken boulders by the road 
Shall not commemorate my ruin. 
Regret shall be the gravel under foot. 
I shall watch for 
Slim birds swift of wing 
.That go where wind and ranks of thunder 
Drive the wild processionals of rain. 

The dust of the traveled road 
Shall touch my hands and face. 



99 



CHOICES 

They offer you many things, 

I a few. 
Moonlight on the play of fountains at night 
With water sparkling a drowsy monotone, 
Bare-shouldered, smiling women and talk 
And a cross-play of loves and adulteries 
And a fear of death 

and a remembering of regrets 
All this they offer you. 
I come with: 

salt and bread 

a terrible job of work 

and tireless war; 
Come and have now: 

hunger. 

danger 

and hate. 



too 



GRAVES 

I DREAMED one man stood against a thousand, 
One man damned as a wrongheaded fool. 
One year and another he walked the streets, 
And a thousand shrugs and hoots 
Met him in the shoulders and mouths he passed. 

He died alone 
And only the undertaker came to his funeral. 

Flowers grow over his grave anod in the wind, 
And over the graves of the thousand, too, 
The flowers grow anod in the wind. 

Flowers and the wind. 
Flowers anod over the graves of the dead, 
Petals of red, leaves of yellow, streaks of white, 
Masses of purple sagging . . . 
I love you and your great way of forgetting. 



I 



lOl 



AZTEC MASK 

I WANTED a man's face looking into the jaws and throat 

of life 
With something proud on his face, so proud no smash 

of the jaws, 
No gulp of the throat leaves the face in the end 
With anything else than the old proud look : 

Even to the finish, dumped in the dust, 

Lost among the used-up cinders, 

This face, men would say, is a flash, 

Is laid on bones taken from the ribs of the earth, 

Ready for the hammers of changing, changing 

years. 
Ready for the sleeping, sleeping years of silence. 
Ready for the dust and fire and wind. 
I wanted this face and I saw it today in an Aztec mask. 
A cry out of storm and dark, a red yell and a purple 

prayer, 
A beaten shape of ashes 

waiting the sunrise or night, 
something or nothing, 
' proud-mouthed, 

proud-eyed gambler. 



xoa 



MOMUS 

MoMUS is the name men give your face, 
The brag of its tone, like a long low steamboat whistle 
Finding a way mid mist on a shoreland. 
Where gray rocks let the salt water shatter spray 
Against horizons purple, silent. 

Yes, Momus, 

Men have flung your face in bronze 

To gaze in gargoyle downward on a street-whirl of folk. 

They were artists did this, shaped your sad mouth, 

Gave you a tall forehead slanted with calm, broad wis- 
dom; 

All your lips to the corners and your cheeks to the high 
bones 

Thrown over and through with a smile that forever 
wishes and wishes, purple, silent, fled from all the 
iron things of life, evaded like a sought bandit, gone 
into dreams, by God. 

I wonder, Momus, 

Whether shadows of the dead sit somewhere and look 

with deep laughter 
On men who play in terrible earnest the old, known, 

solemn repetitions of history. 
X03 



104 ^^^ Road and the End 

A droning monotone soft as sea laughter hovers from 

your kindliness of bronze, 
You give me the human ease of a mountain peak, purple, 

silent ; 
Granite shoulders heaving above the earth curves, 
Careless eye-witness of the spawning tides of men and 

women 
Swarming always in a drift of millions to the dust of toil, 

the salt of tears, 
And blood drops of undiminishing war. 



THE ANSWER 

You have spoken the answer. 
A child searches far sometimes 
Into the red dust 

On a dark rose leaf 
And so you have gone far 

For the answer is: 
Silence. 

In the republic 
Of the winking stars 

and spent cataclysms 
Sure we are it is off there the answer 

is hidden and folded over, 
Sleeping in the sun, careless whether 
it is Sunday or any other day of 
the week, 

Knowing silence will bring all one way 
or another. 

Have we not seen 
Purple of the pansy 

out of the mulch 

and mold 

crawl 

105 



io6 The Road and the End 

into a dusk 
of velvet? 
blur of yellow? 
Almost we thought from nowhere but it was 
the silence, 
the future, 
working. 



TO A DEAD MAN 

Over the dead line we have called to you 
To come across with a word to us, 
Some beaten whisper of what happens 
Where you are over the dead line 
Deaf to our calls and voiceless. 

The flickering shadows have not answered 
Nor your lips sent a signal 
Whether love talks and roses grow 
And the sun breaks at morning 
Splattering the sea with crimson. 



107 



UNDER 



I AM the undertow 
Washing tides of power 
Battering the pillars 
Under your things of high law. 

II 

I am a sleepless 

Slowfaring eater, 

Maker of rust and rot 

In your bastioned fastenings, 

Caissons deep. 

Ill 
I am the Law 

Older than you 

And your builders proud. 

I am deaf 

In all days 

Whether you 

Say " Yes " or " No ". 

I am the crumbier: 
To-morrow. 
xo8 



A SPHINX 

Close-mouthed you sat five thousand years and never 

let out a whisper. 
Processions came by, marchers, asking questions you 

answered with grey eyes never blinking, shut lips 

never talking. 
Not one croak of anything you know has come from your 

cat crouch of ages. 
I am one of those who know all you know and I keep my 

questions : I know the answers you hold. 



109 



WHO AM I? 

My head knocks against the stars. 

My feet are on the hiUtops. 

My finger-tips are in the valleys and shores of 

universal life. 
Down in the sounding foam of primal things I 

reach my hands and play with pebbles of 

destiny. 
I have been to hell and back many times. 
I know all about heaven, for I have talked with 

God. 
I dabble in the blood and guts of the terrible. 
I know the passionate seizure of beauty 
And the marvelous rebellion of man at all signs 

reading " Keep Off." 

My name is Truth and I am the most elusive cap- 
tive in the universe. 



1X0 



OUR PRAYER OF THANKS 

For the gladness here where the sun is shining at even- 
ing on the weeds at the river. 
Our prayer of thanks. 

For the laughter of children who tumble barefooted and 
bareheaded in the summer grass, 
Our prayer of thanks. 

For the sunset and the stars, the women and the white 
arms that hold us. 
Our prayer of thanks. ^ 

God, 
If you are deaf and blind, if this is all lost to you, 
God, if the dead in their coflfins amid the silver handles 
on the edge of town, or the reckless dead of war 
days thrown unknown in pits, if these dead are for- 
ever deaf and blind and lost. 
Our prayer of thanks. 

God, 
The game is all your way, the secrets and the signals and 
the system; and so for the break of the game and 
the first play and the last. 
Our prayer of thanks. 

lit 



FOGS AND FIRES 



AT A WINDOW 

Give me hunger, 

O you gods that sit and give 

The world its orders. 

Give me hunger, pain and want, 

Shut me out with shame and failure 

From your doors of gold and fame, 

Give me your shabbiest, weariest hunger! 

But leave me a little love, 

A voice to speak to me in the day end, 

A hand to touch me in the dark room 

Breaking the long loneliness. 

In the dusk of day-shapes 

Blurring the sunset, 

One little wandering, western star 

Thrust out from the changing shores of shadow. 

Let me go to the window. 

Watch there the day-shapes of dusk 

And wait and know the coming 

Of a little love. 



"5 



UNDER THE HARVEST MOON 

Under the harvest moon, 
When the soft silver 
Drips shimmering 
Over the garden nights, 
Death, the gray mocker. 
Comes and whispers to you 
As a beautiful friend 
Who remembers. 

Under the summer roses 
When the flagrant crimson 
Lurks in the dusk 
Of the wild red leaves. 
Love, with little hands, 
Comes and touches you 
With a thousand memories. 
And asks you 
Beautiful, unanswerable questions. 



xx6 



THE GREAT HUNT 

I CANNOT tell you now ; 

When the wind's drive and whirl 

Blow me along no longer. 

And the wind's a whisper at last — 

Maybe I'll tell you then — 

some other time. 

When the rose's flash to the sunset 
Reels to the rack and the twist, 
And the rose is a red bygone. 
When the face I love is going 
And the gate to the end shall clang, 
And it's no use to beckon or say, " So long "- 
Maybe I'll tell you then — 

some other time. 

1 never knew any more beautiful than you : 
I have hunted you under my thoughts, 
I have broken down under the wind 
And into the roses looking for you. 
I shall never find any 

greater than you. 



117 



MONOTONE 

The monotone of the rain is beautiful, 
And the sudden rise and slow relapse 
Of the long multitudinous rain. 

The sun on the hills is beautiful, 
Or a captured sunset sea-flung, 
Bannered with fire and gold. 

A face I know is beautiful — 
With fire and gold of sky and sea, 
And the peace of long warm rain. 



Il8 



JOY 

Let a joy keep you. 
Reach out your hands 
And take it when it runs by, 
As the Apache dancer 
Clutches his woman. 
I have seen them 
Live long and laugh loud, 
Sent on singing, singing. 
Smashed to the heart 
Under the ribs 
With a terrible love. 
Joy always, 
Joy everywhere — 
Let joy kill you I 
Keep away from the little deaths. 



"9 



SHIRT 

I REMEMBER once I ran after you and tagged the flutter- 
ing shirt of you in the wind. 

Once many days ago I drank a glassful of something and 
the picture of you shivered and slid on top of the 
stuff. 

And again it was nobody else but you I heard in the 
singing voice of a careless humming woman. 

One night when I sat with chums telling stories at a 
bonfire flickering red embers, in a language its own 
talking to a spread of white stars : 

It was you that slunk laughing 
in the clumsy staggering shadows. 

Broken answers of remembrance let me know you are 
alive with a peering phantom face behind a doorway 
somewhere in the city's push and fury 

Or under a pack of moss and leaves waiting in silence 
under a twist of oaken arms ready as ever to run 
away again when I tag the fluttering shirt of you. 



ISO 



AZTEC 

You came from the Aztecs 
With a copper on your fore-arms 
Tawnier than a sunset 
Saying good-by to an even river. 

And I said, you remember, 
Those fore-arms of yours 
Were finer than bronzes 
And you were glad. 

It was tears 
And a path west 

and a home-going 

when I asked 
Why there were scars of worn gold 
Where a man's ring was fixed once 
On your third finger. 

And I call you 
To come back 

before the days are longer. 



131 



TWO 

Memory of you is ... a blue spear of flower. 
I cannot remember the name of it. 
Alongside a bold dripping poppy is fire and silk. 

And they cover you. 



BACK YARD 

Shine on, O moon of summer. 

Shine to the leaves of grass, catalpa and oak, 

All silver under your rain to-night. 

An Italian boy is sending songs to you to-night from an 

accordion. 
A Polish boy is out with his best girl; they many next 

month ; to-night they are throwing you kisses. 

An old man next door is dreaming over a sheen that sits 
in a cherry tree in his back yard. 

The clocks say I must go — I stay here sitting on the 
back porch drinking white thoughts you rain down. 

Shine on, O moon, 
Shake out more and more silver changes. 



123 



ON THE BREAKWATER 

On the breakwater in the summer dark, a man and a 

girl are sitting, 
She across his knee and they are looking face into face 
Talking to each other without words, singing rythms in 

silence to each other. 

A funnel of white ranges the blue dusk from an out- 
going boat. 

Playing its searchlight, puzzled, abrupt, over a streak of 
green, 

And two on the breakwater keep their silence, she on his 
knee. 



tt4 



MASK 

Fling your red scarf faster and faster, dancer. 

It is summer and the sun loves a million green leaves, 

masses of green. 
Your red scarf flashes across them calling and a-calling. 
The silk and flare of it is a great soprano leading a 

chorus 
Carried along in a rouse of voices reaching for the heart 

of the world. 
Your toes are singing to meet the song of your arms : 

Let the red scarf go swifter. 
Summer and the sun command you. 



Its 



PEARL FOG 

Open the door now. 
Go roll up the collar of your coat 
To walk in the changing scarf of mist. 

Tell your sins here to the pearl fog 
And know for once a deepening night 
Strange as the half-meanings 
Alurk in a wise woman's mousey eyes. 

Yes, tell your sins 
And know how careless a pearl fog is 
Of the laws you have broken. 



is6 



I SANG 

I SANG to you and the moon 
But only the moon remembers. 

I sang 
O reckless free-hearted 

free-throated rythms, 
Even the moon remembers them 

And is kind to me. 



ti7 



FOLLIES 

Shaken, 
The blossoms of lilac, 

And shattered, 
The atoms of purple. 
Green dip the leaves. 

Darker the bark. 
Longer the shadows. 

Sheer lines of poplar 
Shimmer with masses of silver 
And down in a garden old with years 
And broken walls of ruin and story, 
Roses rise with red rain-memories. 
May! 

In the open world 
The sun comes and finds your face, 

Remembering all. 



Z28 



JUNE 

Paula is digging and shaping the loam of a salvia, 

Scarlet Chinese talker of summer. 
Two petals of crabapple blossom blow fallen in Paula's 
hair, 

And fluff of white from a cottonwood. 



119 



NOCTURNE IN A DESERTED 
BRICKYARD 

Stuff of the moon 
Runs on the lapping sand 
Out to the longest shadows. 
Under the curving willows, 
And round the creep of the wave line, 
Fluxions of yellow and dusk on the waters 
Make a wide dreaming pansy of an old pond in the night. 



130 



i 



HYDRANGEAS 

Dragoons, I tell you the white hydrangeas 

turn rust and go soon. 
Already mid September a line of brown runs 

over them. 
One sunset after another tracks the faces, the 

petals. 
Waiting, they look over the fence for what 

way they go. 



131 



THEME IN YELLOW 

I SPOT the hills 

With yellow balls in autumn. 

I light the prairie cornfields 

Orange and tawny gold clusters 

And I am called pumpkins. 

On the last of October 

When dusk is fallen 

Children join hands 

And circle round me 

Singing ghost songs 

And love to the harvest moon ; 

I am a jack-o'-lantern 

With terrible teeth 

And the children know 

I am fooling. 



131 



BETWEEN TWO HILLS 

Between two hills 
The old town stands. 
The houses loom 
And the roofs and trees 
And the dusk and the dark, 
The damp and the dew 
Are there. 

The prayers are said 
And the people rest 
For sleep is there 
And the touch of dreams 
Is over all. 



X33 



LAST ANSWERS 

I WROTE a poem on the mist 

And a woman asked me what I meant by it. 

I had thought till then only of the beauty of the mist, 
how pearl and gray of it mix and reel, 

And change the drab shanties with lighted lamps at even- 
ing into points of mystery quivering with color. 

I answered: 
The whole world was mist once long ago and some day 

it will all go back to mist, 
Our skulls and lungs are more water than bone and 

tissue 
And all poets love dust and mist because all the last 

answers 
Go running back to dust and mist. 



134 



WINDOW 

Night from a railroad car window 
Is a great, dark, soft thing 
Broken across with slashes of light. 



135 



YOUNG SEA 

The sea is never still. 
It pounds on the shore 
Restless as a young heart. 
Hunting. 

The sea speaks 

And only the stormy hearts 

Know what it says: 

It is the face 

of a rough mother speaking. 

The sea is young. 
One storm cleans all the hoar 
And loosens the age of it. 
I hear it laughing, reckless. 

They love the sea, 
Men who ride on it 
And know they will die 
Under the salt of it 

Let only the young come. 
Says the sea. 
136 



Young Sea iZ7 

Let them kiss my face 

And hear me. 
I am the last word 

And I tell 
Where storms and stars come from. 



BONES 

Sling me under the sea. 
Pack me down in the salt and wet. 
No farmer's plow shall touch my bones. 
No Hamlet hold my jaws and speak 
How jokes are gone and empty is my mouth. 
Long, green-eyed scavengers shall pick my eyes, 
Purple fish play hide-and-seek, 
And I shall be song of thunder, crash of sea, 
Down on the floors of salt and wet. 
Sling me . . . under the sea. 



138 



PALS 

Take a hold now 

On the silver handles here, 

Six silver handles, 

One for each of his old pals. 

Take hold 

And lift him down the stairs. 
Put him on the rollers 
Over the floor of the hearse. 

Take him on the last haul, 
To the cold straight house. 
The level even house, 
To the last house of all. 

The dead say nothing 

And the dead know much 

And the dead hold under their tongues 

A locked-up story. 



139 



CHILD 

The young child, Christ, is straight and wise 
And asks questions of the old men, questions 
Found under running water for all children 
And found under shadows thrown on still waters 
By tall trees looking downward, old and gnarled. 
Found to the eyes of children alone, untold, 
Singing a low song in the loneliness. 
And the young child, Christ, goes on asking 
And the old men answer nothing and only know love 
For the young child. Christ, straight and wise. 



140 



POPPIES 

She loves blood-red poppies for a garden to walk in. 
In a loose white gown she walks 

and a new child tugs at cords in her body. 
Her head to the west at evening when the dew is creep- 
ing, 
A shudder of gladness runs in her bones and torsal fiber: 
She loves blood-red poppies for a garden to walk in. 



14T 



CHILD MOON 

The child's wonder 

At the old moon 

Comes back nightly. 

She points her finger 

To the far silent yellow thing 

Shining through the branches 

Filtering on the leaves a golden sand, 

Crying with her little tongue, " See the moon ! " 

And in her bed fading to sleep 

With babblings of the moon on her little mouth. 



14a 



MARGARET 

Many birds and the beating of wings 

Make a flinging reckless hum 

In the early morning at the rocks 

Above the blue pool 

Where the gray shadows swim lazy. 

In your blue eyes, O reckless child, 
I saw today many little wild wishes, 
Eager as the great morning. 



143 



SHADOWS 



POEMS DONE ON A LATE NIGHT CAR 

I. CHICKENS 

I AM The Great White Way of the city : 
When you ask what is my desire, I answer : 
" Girls fresh as country wild flowers, 
With young faces tired of the cows and barns, 
Eager in their eyes as the dawn to find my mysteries, 
Slender supple girls with shapely legs, 
Lure in the arch of their little shoulders 
And wisdom from the prairies to cry only softly at 
the ashes of my mysteries." 



147 



II. USED UP 

Lines based on certain regrets that come with rumina- 
tion upon the painted faces of women on 
North Clark Street, Chicago 

Roses, 
Red roses, 
Crushed 
In the rain and wind 
Like mouths of women 
Beaten by the fists of 
Men using them. 
O little roses 
And broken leaves 
And petal wisps : 
You that so flung your crimson 

To the sun 
Only yesterday. 



X48 



III. HOME 



Here is a thing my heart wishes the world had more of : 
I heard it in the air of one night when I Hstened 
To a mother singing softly to a child restless and angry 
in the darkness. 



149 



IT IS MUCH 

Women of night life amid the lights 
Where the line of your full, round throats 
Matches in gleam the glint of your eyes 
And the ring of your heart-deep laughter : 
It is much to be warm and sure of to-morrow. 

Women of night life along the shadows, 
Lean at your throats and skulking the walls. 
Gaunt as a bitch worn to the bone, 
Under the paint of your smiling faces : 
It is much to be warm and sure of to-morrow. 



150 



TRAFFICKER 

Among the shadows where two streets cross, 

A woman lurks in the dark and waits 

To move on when a policeman heaves in view. 

Smiling a broken smile from a face 

Painted over haggard bones and desperate eyes, 

All night she offers passers-by what they will 

Of her beauty wasted, body faded, claims gone. 

And no takers. 



151 



HARRISON STREET COURT 

I HEARD a woman's lips 
Speaking to a companion 
Say these words : 

" A woman what hustles 

Never keeps nothin* 

For all her hustlin*. 

Somebody always gets 

What she goes on the street for. 

If it ain't a pimp 

It's a bull what gets it. 

I been hustlin' now 

Till I ain't much good any more. 

I got nothin' to show for it. 

Some man got it all, 

Every night's hustlin* I ever did." 



15a 



SOILED DOVE 

Let us be honest; the lady was not a harlot until she 
married a corporation lawyer who picked her from 
a Ziegfeld chorus. 

Before then she never took anybody's money and paid 
for her silk stockings out of what she earned singing 
and dancing. 

She loved one man and he loved six women and the 
game was changing her looks, calling for more and 
more massage money and high coin for the beauty 
doctors. 

Now she drives a long, underslung motor car all by her- 
self, reads in the day's papers what her husband is 
doing to the inter-state commerce commission, re- 
quires a larger corsage from year to year, and won- 
ders sometimes how one man is coming along with 
six women. 



X53 



JUNGHEIMER'S 

In western fields of com and northern timber lands. 
They talk about me, a saloon with a soul, 
The soft red lights, the long curving bar. 
The leather seats and dim corners, 
Tall brass spittoons, a nigger cutting ham, 

And the painting of a woman half-dressed thrown reck- 
less across a bed after a night of booze and riots. 



X54 



GONE 

Everybody loved Chick Lorimer in our town. 
Far off 
Everybody loved her. 
So we all love a wild girl keeping a hold 

On a dream she wants. 
Nobody knows now where Chick Lorimer went. 
Nobody knows why she packed her trunk . . a few 

old things 
And is gone, 

Gone with her little chin 
Thrust ahead of her 
And her soft hair blowing careless' 
From under a wide hat, 
Dancer, singer, a laughing passionate lover. 

Were there ten men or a hundred hunting Chick? 
Were there five men or fifty with aching hearts ? 
Everybody loved Chick Lorimer. 

Nobody knows where she's gone. 



155 



OTHER DAYS 
( 1900-1910) 



DREAMS IN THE DUSK 

Dreams in the dusk, 

Only dreams closing the day 

And with the day's close going back 

To the gray things, the dark things. 

The far, deep things of dreamland. 

Dreams, only dreams in the dusk, 
Only the old remembered pictures 
Of lost days when the day's loss 
Wrote in tears the heart's loss. 

Tears and loss and broken dreams 
May find your heart at dusk. 



159 



DOCKS 

Strolling along 

By the teeming docks, 

I watch the ships put out. 

Black ships that heave and lunge 

And move like mastodons 

Arising from lethargic sleep. 

The fathomed harbor 
Calls them not nor dares 
Them to a strain of action, 
But outward, on and outward, 
Sounding low-reverberating calls, 
Shaggy in the half-lit distance, 
They pass the pointed headland. 
View the wide, far-lifting wilderness 
And leap with cumulative speed 
To test the challenge of the sea. 

Plunging, 

Doggedly onward plunging, 

Into salt and mist and foam and sun. 



I60 



ALL DAY LONG 

All day long in fog and wind, 

The waves have flung their beating crests 

Against the paHsades of adamant. 

My boy, he went to sea, long and long ago, 
Curls of brown were slipping underneath his cap, 
K , He looked at me from blue and steely eyes ; 
■ Natty, straight and true, he stepped away, 
P My boy, he went to sea. 
' All day long in fog and wind. 

The waves have flung their beating crests 

Against the palisades of adamant. 



I6l 



WAITING 

Today I will let the old boat stand 
Where the sweep of the harbor tide comes in 
To the pulse of a far, deep-steady sway. 
And I will rest and dream and sit on the deck 

Watching the world go by 
And take my pay for many hard days gone I re- 
member. 

I will choose what clouds I like 

In the great white fleets that wander the blue 

As I lie on my back or loaf at the rail. 

And I will listen as the veering winds kiss me and 

fold me 
And put on my brow the touch of the world's great 

will. 

Daybreak will hear the heart of the boat beat, 

Engine throb and piston play 
In the quiver and leap at call of life. 
To-morrow we move in the gaps and heights 
On changing floors of unlevel seas 
And no man shall stop us and no man follow 
For ours is the quest of an unknown shore 
And we are husky and lusty and shouting-gay. 

162 



FROM THE SHORE 

A LONE gray bird, 

Dim-dipping, far-flying, 

Alone in the shadows and grandeurs and tumults 

Of night and the sea 

And the stars and storms. 

Out over the darkness it wavers and hovers. 
Out into the gloom it swings and batters. 
Out into the wind and the rain and the vast, 
Out into the pit of a great black world, 
Where fogs are at battle, sky-driven, sea-blown. 
Love of mist and rapture of flight. 
Glories of chance and hazards of death 
On its eager and palpitant wings. 

Out into the deep of the great dark world. 
Beyond the long borders where foam and drift 
Of the sundering waves are lost and gone 
On the tides that plunge and rear and crumble. 



163 



UPLANDS IN MAY 

Wonder as of old things 
Fresh and fair come back 
Hangs over pasture and road. 
Lush in the lowland grasses rise 
And upland beckons to upland. 
The great strong hills are humble. 



164 



DREAM GIRL 

You will come one day in a waver of love, 

Tender as dew, impetuous as rain. 

The tan of the sun will be on your skin, 

The purr of the breeze in your murmuring speech, 

You will pose with a hill-flower grace. 

You will come, with your slim, expressive arms, 
A poise of the head no sculptor has caught 
And nuances spoken with shoulder and neck, 
Your face in a pass-and-repass of moods 
As many as skies in delicate change 
Of cloud and blue and flimmering sun. 

Yet, 
You may not come, O girl of a dream. 
We may but pass as the world goes by 
And take from a look of eyes into eyes, 
A film of hope and a memoried day. 



165 



PLOWBOY 

After the last red sunset glimmer. 

Black on the line of a low hill rise, 

Formed into moving shadows, I saw 

A plowboy and two horses lined against the 

gray, 
Plowing in the dusk the last furrow. 
The turf had a gleam of brown, 
And smell of soil was in the air. 
And, cool and moist, a haze of April. 

I shall remember you long, 

Plowboy and horses against the sky in shadow. 

I shall remember you and the picture 

You made for me. 

Turning the turf in the dusk 

And haze of an April gloaming. 



166 



BROADWAY 

I SHALL never forget you, Broadway 
Your golden and calling lights. 

I'll remember you long, 
Tall-walled river of rush and play. 

Hearts that know you hate you 

And lips that have given you laughter 

Have gone to their ashes of life and its roses, 

Cursing the dreams that were lost 

In the dust of your harsh and trampled stones. 



167 



OLD WOMAN 

The owl-car clatters along, dogged by the echo 

From building and battered paving-stone; 

The headlight scoffs at the mist 

And fixes its yellow rays in the cold slow rain; 

Against a pane I press my forehead 

And drowsily look on the walls and sidewalks. 

The headlight finds the way 

And life is gone from the wet and the welter — 

Only an old woman, bloated, disheveled and bleared. 

Far-wandered waif of other days, 

Huddles for sleep in a doorway, 

Homeless. 



i68 



NOON HOUR 

She sits in the dust at the walls 

And makes cigars, 
Bending at the bench 
With fingers wage-anxious, 
Changing her sweat for the day's pay. 

Now the noon hour has come. 
And she leans with her bare arms 
On the window-sill over the river, 
Leans and feels at her throat 
Cool-moving things out of the free open ways 

At her throat and eyes and nostrils 

The touch and the blowing cool 

Of great free ways beyond the walls. 



169 



'BOES 

I WAITED today for a freight train to pass. 

Cattle cars with steers butting their horns against the 

bars, went by. 
And a half a dozen hoboes stood on bumpers between 

cars. 
Well, the cattle are respectable, I thought. 
Every steer has its transportation paid for by the farmer 

sending it to market, 
While the hoboes are law-breakers in riding a railroad 

train without a ticket. 
It reminded me of ten days I spent in the Allegheny 

County jail in Pittsburgh. 
I got ten days even though I was a veteran of the Span- 
ish-American war. 
Cooped in the same cell with me was an old man, a 

bricklayer and a booze-fighter. 
But it just happened he, too, was a veteran soldier, and 

he had fought to preserve the Union and free the 

niggers. 
We were three in all, the other being a Lithuanian who 

got drunk on pay day at the steel works and got to 

fighting a policeman ; 
All the clothes he had was a shirt, pants and shoes — 

somebody got his hat and coat and what money he 

had left over when he got drunk. 
170 



UNDER A TELEPHONE POLE 

I AM a copper wire slung in the air, 

Slim against the sun I make not even a clear line of 
shadow. 

Night and day I keep singing — humming and thrum- 
ming: 

It is love and war and money ; it is the fighting and the 
tears, the work and want, 

Death and laughter of men and women passing through 
me, carrier of your speech, 

In the rain and the wet dripping, in the dawn and the 
shine drying, 

A copper wire. 



171 



I AM THE PEOPLE, THE MOB 

I AM the people — the mob — the crowd — the mass. 

Do you know that all the great work of the world is 
done through me? 

I am the workingman, the inventor, the maker of the 
world's food and clothes. 

I am the audience that witnesses history. The Napo- 
leons come from me and the Lincolns. They die. 
And then I send forth more Napoleons and Lin- 
colns. 

I am the seed ground. I am a prairie that will stand 
for much plowing. Terrible storms pass over me. 
I forget. The best of me is sucked out and wasted. 
I forget. Everything but Death comes to me and 
makes me work and give up what I have. And I 
forget. 

Sometimes I growl, shake myself and spatter a few red 
drops for history to remember. Then — I forget. 

When I, the People, learn to remember, when I, the 
People, use the lessons of yesterday and no longer 
forget who robbed me last year, who played me for 
a fool — then there will be no speaker in all the world 
say the name : " The People," with any fleck of a 
sneer in his voice or any far-off smile of derision. 

The mob — the crowd — the mass — ^will arrive then. 



172 



GOVERNMENT 

The Government — I heard about the Government and 
I went out to find it. I said I would look closely at 
it when I saw it. 

Then I saw a policeman dragging a drunken man to 
the callaboose. It was the Government in action. 

I saw a ward alderman slip into an office one morning 
and talk with a judge. Later in the day the judge 
dismissed a case against a pickpocket who was a 
live ward worker for the alderman. Again I saw 
this was the Government, doing things. 

I saw militiamen level their rifles at a crowd of work- 
ingmen who were trying to get other workingmen 
to stay away from a shop where there was a strike 
on. Government in action. 

Everywhere I saw that Government is a thing made of 
men, that Government has blood and bones, it is 
many mouths whispering into many ears, sending 
telegrams, aiming rifles, writing orders, saying 
" yes " and " no." 

Government dies as the men who form it die and are laid 
away in their graves and the new Government that 
comes after is human, made of heartbeats of blood, 
173 



174 Other Days 

ambitions, lusts, and money running through it all, 
money paid and money taken, and money covered 
up and spoken of with hushed voices. 
A Government is just as secret and mysterious and sensi- 
tive as any human sinner carrying a load of germs, 
traditions and corpuscles handed down from 
fathers and mothers away back. 



LANGUAGES 

There are no handles upon a language 

Whereby men take hold of it 

And mark it with signs for its remembrance. 

It is a river, this language, 

Once in a thousand years 

Breaking a new course 

Changing its way to the ocean. 

It is mountain effluvia 

Moving to valleys 

And from nation to nation 

Crossing borders and mixing. 

Languages die like rivers. 

Words wrapped round your tongue today 

And broken to shape of thought 

Between your teeth and lips speaking 

Now and today 

Shall be faded hieroglyphics 

Ten thousand years from now. 

Sing — ^and singing — remember 

Your song dies and changes 

And is not here to-morrow 

Any more than the wind 

Blowing ten thousand years ago. 



175 



LETTERS TO DEAD IMAGISTS 

Emily Dickinson: 
You gave us the bumble bee who has a soul, 
The everlasting traveler among the hollyhocks, 
And how God plays around a back yard garden. 

Stevie Crane: 
War is kind and we never knew the kindness of war till 

you came; 
Nor the black riders and clashes of spear and shield out 

of the sea, 
Nor the mumblings and shots that rise from dreams on 

call. 



176 



SHEEP 

Thousands of sheep, soft-footed, black-nosed sheep — 
one by one going up the hill and over the fence — one by 
one four-footed pattering up and over — one by one wig- 
gling their stub tails as they take the short jump and go 
over — one by one silently unless for the multitudinous 
drumming of their hoofs as they move on and go over — 
thousands and thousands of them in the grey haze of 
evening just after sundown — one by one slanting in a 
long line to pass over the hill — 

I am the slow, long-legged Sleepyman and I love you 
sheep in Persia, California, Argentine, Australia, or 
Spain — ^you are the thoughts that help me when I, the 
Sleepyman, lay my hands on the eyelids of the children 
of the world at eight o'clock every night — you thousands 
and thousands of sheep in a procession of dusk making 
an endless multitudinous drumming on the hills with 
your hoofs. 



177 



THE RED SON 

I LOVE your faces I saw the many years 
I drank your milk and filled my mouth 
With your home talk, slept in your house 
And was cne of you. 

But a fire bums in my heart. 
Under the ribs where pulses thud 
And flitting between bones of skull 
Is the push, the endless mysterious command, 

Saying : 
" I leave you behind — 

You for the little hills and the years all alike, 
You with your patient cows and old houses 
Protected from the rain, 

I am going away and I never come back to you ; 
Crags and high rough places call me. 
Great places of death 
Where men go empty handed 
And pass over smiling 
To the star-drift on the horizon rim. 
My last whisper shall be alone, unknown; 
I shall go to the city and fight against it, 
And make it give me passwords 
Of luck and love, women worth dying for, 
And money. 

178 



The Red Son 179 

I go where you wist not of 

Nor I nor any man nor woman. 

I only know I go to storms 

Grappling against things wet and naked." 
There is no pity of it and no blame. 
None of us is in the wrong. 
After all it is only this : 

You for the little hills and I go away. 



THE MIST 

I AM the mist, the impalpable mist, 

Back of the thing you seek. 

My arms are long, 

Long as the reach of time and space. 

Some toil and toil, believing, 
Looking now and again on my face, 
Catching a vital, olden glory. 

But no one passes me, 

I tangle and snare them all. 

I am the cause of the Sphinx, 

The voiceless, baffled, patient Sphinx. 

I was at the first of things, 
I will be at the last. 

I am the primal mist 

And no man passes me ; 

My long impalpable arms 

Bar them all. 



1 80 



THE JUNK MAN 

I AM glad God saw Death 

And gave Death a job taking care of all who are tired 
of living: 

When all the wheels in a clock are worn and slow and 

the connections loose 
And the clock goes on ticking and telling the wrong time 

from hour to hour 
And people around the house joke about what a bum 

clock it is, 
How glad the clock is when the big Junk Man drives 

his wagon 
Up to the house and puts his arms around the clock and 

says: 

" You don't belong here, 
You gotta come 
Along with me," 
How glad the clock is then, when it feels the arms of the 

Junk Man close around it and carry it away. 



i8x 



SILVER NAILS 

A MAN was crucified. He came to the city a stranger, 
was accused, and nailed to a cross. He lingered hang- 
ing. Laughed at the crowd. " The nails are iron," he 
said, " You are cheap. In my country when we crucify 
we use silver nails ..." So he went jeering. They 
did not understand him at first. Later they talked about 
him in changed voices in the saloons, bowling alleys, and 
churches. It came over them every man is crucified 
only once in his life and the law of humanity dictates 
silver nails be used for the job. A statue was erected 
to him in a public square. Not having gathered his 
name when he was among them, they wrote him as John 
Silvernail on the statue. 



I83 



GYPSY 

I ASKED a gypsy pal 

To imitate an old image 

And speak old wisdom. 

She drew in her chin, 

Made her neck and head 

The top piece of a Nile obelisk 

and said : 
Snatch off the gag from thy mouth, child, 
And be free to keep silence. 
Tell no man anything for no man listens, 
Yet hold thy lips ready to speak. 



X83 



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1916